Well, with our rainy season half ways over, the outlook is dire. Looking at the “up-to-date” records, we have received about half of normal rainfall, season to date. So what does this mean for those of you who have just put in those natives after the plant sale?
The bottom line is you will need to water your new plantings every other week deeply until the rains hopefully return. What does water ‘deeply’ mean? Depending on your soil type, deeply for sandy coastal soil means: fill the basin around your plant three times. If you live in Los Osos that means it could take up to 10 minutes for the soil to accept the first basin full of water. With clay soil, like in San Luis Obispo or Atascadero, one basin filling should be enough. Remember it’s always best to water early in the day.
Now we need to discuss your more matures trees and shrubs? Many of us already have old oaks, manzanitas, ceanothus and many other natives. Should I water them? If we don’t receive at least 2 inches of rain by the end of February, the answer is “yes”. I know you have always heard, “don’t water your oaks or natives.” This is somewhat true, but to clarify: Don’t water during the summer months of June, July, August and September. Watering mature oaks during these months can cause ‘root rot’ aka oak root fungus. However, during the winter months of December, January, February and March, our native plants, especially oaks, need rainfall to sustain themselves through the long summer months.
So in conclusion, due to the unusual deficit in rainfall that we are now experiencing, you may need to apply supplemental water to your garden. Keep an eye to the sky and if the rain doesn’t return (and you can afford it), you will need to help your garden out. Set out irrigation for established shrubs and trees as well as hand water your new plantings, every two weeks until the rains, hopefully return. Until next time, collect rain water and happy gardening. John Nowak